Ayres Associates Designs Western Wisconsin Winery
RIVER FALLS, WI On a recent midsummer's eve at the Belle Vinez Winery, a soft light cast an ephemeral glow over the vineyard's gently rolling hills, where rows of succulent grapes drooped from lush green vines.
Sound like a scene from Italy?
That's the Zimmerman family's goal as they worked with Ayres Associates to design their winery in rural River Falls, Wisconsin.
"We wanted to make this great experience where someone could feel like they took a mini vacation, where they could imagine they weren't here in western Wisconsin," said Angel Zimmerman.
From the beginning, the family wanted a Tuscan-themed building to set it apart from other wineries in the St. Croix Valley. But how do you recreate Tuscany in a state more known for its cheese than its vineyards?
The project began with the owners sharing photos from their Tuscany trips with Project Principal Matt Frisbie. They also reviewed photos of Tuscan wineries from a trip Frisbie's wife had taken.
Frisbie, along with Project Manager/Architect Mark Paschke, researched Tuscan architecture and observed that wineries often feature a cluster of brick and stone buildings that have been added on to or connected to over a long period of time, often around an outdoor plaza or courtyard space. Frisbie says Belle Vinez's design conveys that idea by arranging a series of building masses - yet keeping it all one building - around a central, south-facing courtyard.
"We knew it was important to frame the views from everywhere in the building and courtyard toward the grapes and the vineyard, so it's very inviting whether you're sitting on the plaza, sampling in the tasting room, or relaxing in one of several lounge areas," Frisbie said.
A field trip to a local quarry to look for building materials resulted in an unexpected surprise. They came across a pile of recycled brick pavers estimated to be more than 100 years old that were taken from a street in St. Paul, Minnesota. To help create an "old world" feel, the pavers were sawn in half and used on part of the building, preserving old mortar scuffs and tar from the bricks' previous life.
"Using this historic brick allowed us to repurpose a great material rather than send it to a landfill, and it tied beautifully with the rustic old building theme," Frisbie said.
Interior Designer Anne Peterson helped value-engineer some of the interior finish selections. Those included luxury vinyl tile that looks like wood planks and stone tile to create a rustic look that matches the architecture, yet will also hold up under high traffic, be easy to maintain, and cost considerably less than traditional wood and stone flooring.
To help visualize the finished building, the design team created 3-D renderings to show what the actual material selections would look like on a larger scale.
Belle Vinez brings a taste of Tuscany to western Wisconsin, and wineries throughout Wisconsin provide getaways for those who appreciate wine as well as architecture. According to this story from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Midwestern wine industry owes its existence to the development of cold-hardy yet wine-worthy grape varieties.